By Jay Mathews
The smartest guidance counselors and college consultants figured out long ago that getting students into the most selective colleges was a fool’s game. Their observations of their students, and research by scholars like social scientist Stacy Berg Dale and Princeton economist Alan B. Krueger, revealed it was character traits, not college pedigrees, that produced successful lives. So their job has been to find the colleges that best fit students’ needs and desires, rather than encouraging applications to the schools most likely to reject them.
That is harder than it looks. High-schoolers’ desires and dreams are unformed, hard to measure. Finding the right school for each is like ascertaining the best soil and sunlight for every flower in a garden. Sometimes you don’t know until you plant them. Nonetheless, the college counselors we checked with identified a few schools that served particular needs unusually well. Some of their recommendations were surprises. Pitt’s success with students with learning disabilities is a strength that hasn’t been noted before. UT is rarely thought of as a leader in intramural sports. Some of our categories are playful, as are the 17-year-olds making these choices. Each of these colleges fits some kids, however. Each is worth looking into, if the school reflects something important in a student’s life.
Finding the Right College for You
Actually, the hard part is finding yourself. The rest is kind of fun.
By Jay Mathews